Conrad Black faced a grilling by a CBC Radio interviewer on Wednesday about his own interview of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Mr. Black interviewed Mr. Ford for The Zoomer television show earlier this week. In the friendly sit-down, Mr. Ford appeared to hint that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale was a pedophile.
Mr. Black’s conversation with the mayor is no longer available on Vision TV’s website.
Here are five awkward moments from Mr. Black’s interview with As It Happens host Carol Off:
1. Why did he let Mr. Ford make insinuations about a reporter?
Carol Off: You know something of [defamation] yourself, you know how damaging it is, and yet when Rob Ford said of Daniel Dale, a Toronto Star reporter, he said, Rob Ford said: “I have little kids. When a guy is taking pictures of little kids, I don’t want to say the word, but you start thinking, what’s this guy all about?” What other word is there but the word “pedophile?”
Conrad Black: No, Peeping Tom.
Black: No. Well, yeah –
Off: Rob Ford said that Daniel Dale he believed to be a pervert.
Black: No, wait a minute. You’re asking me a question. If you’re going to answer your own questions, you know, you needn’t have phoned me at all. But I think there’s room for a greater variety of interpretations than that, and there are levels of perversion if you insist on using that word, but I took it as the lower end where it was trespassing, snooping and excessive, but not necessarily a maladjusted or psychiatrically unbalanced curiosity.
2. Why didn’t Mr. Black know the background?
Off: Well, actually, Daniel Dale and this story has been investigated by the police because, as you know, Rob Ford called the police about Daniel Dale being, not on the property, but in the public area behind his property where he was taking pictures of a field or a public property that Mr. Ford would like to buy. He didn’t look over the fence, there were no kids in the yard that anyone knows of and … the police [investigation] said there was absolutely no substance to this. This was all reported a long time ago. You’re known for your research. Did you not know that this was completely wrong?
Black: I didn’t know any of that.
Off: So you accepted what Mr. Ford had to say?
Black: Yes, I accepted it. I mean, if your summary of things is correct, then the mayor lied. I still don’t see it as an allegation of pedophilia. I think there’s an over-hasty leap out of the starting blocks to assume that. But certainly, if your account that you just gave is accurate, then the mayor lied and I would resent that if he did.
3. What is the responsibility of a journalist to be accurate?
Off: You have sued a lot of people, haven’t you, for libel and slander?
Black: Yeah, and always successfully.
Off: Uh-huh. And is it not the responsibility of those who are doing journalism, putting things on the air to know that things that are put on are accurate?
Black: Um. [Pause]. Certainly it is the responsibility of anyone who is engaged in commenting or facilitating comments on people in a way that could affect their reputation to act responsibly and I don’t think that I varied from that at all. I mean, the fact is it is terribly annoying to have the media snooping around your house. I’ve had it. I’ve had helicopters flying over my house at low altitudes for hours on end. It is un-utterably annoying. And I have some sympathy for it. And I think the prima facie case here is that the mayor was being bothered. And I certainly take note of your view that there is another version of events at drastic variance with his. And as I said, if the mayor deliberately misled the viewers and did not tell me the truth – lied in fact – I would resent that very much and I’ll comment on it. But I had no reason to believe that’s the case.
4. Who was responsible?
Off: You had three days to find out if it was true or not and you didn’t. [The interview was recorded on Friday and aired on Monday.]
Black: No. I don’t do that. I do the interview. I don’t do the rest of it.
Off: You do a lot of research. Do you not think that should be…
Black: Yeah. Will you stop harping on that? Yes, I do a lot of research. I’m writing the history of Canada right now, thousands of footnotes. I know a lot about research. But I conduct the interviews and there are other people in that company who do the professional follow-up on that.
Off: You’re passing the buck.
Black: No. I’m not passing the buck. At that particular place, Zoomer, I have a function. I do the function. I’m paid to do the function. I’m not paid to edit it.
5. Why didn’t Mr. Black ask about details of the police probe?
Off: But at some point, were you not even curious to know more about the more serious revelations in the police documents that indicate that Mr. Ford had a relationship with various underworld figures?
Black: No, I would be curious to know more about that. And I think it’s, I think it’s a worrisome matter.
Off: Why didn’t you ask him then?
Black: Because he volunteered that he’d had some associations that were inappropriate and I thought that, since he’d volunteered that, I’d just be flogging a dead horse.